As the pandemic continues, many remote work situations have been extended through the end of the year and perhaps even beyond. While your team may be working remotely and travel is restricted, it’s important to continue to invest in professional development for your employees. No matter what our work environments look like, we know that professional development benefits employers in many ways, from having a competent workforce to increasing employee retention rates. Whether you offered professional development opportunities previously and hit pause due to COVID-19 or haven’t offered anything before, now is a great time to look for opportunities to help your employees grow.
Slacking off on the training your provide hurts your business in the long run with all employees, but especially with your younger employees who are just beginning their careers. Throughout our lives, we learn by watching others — hearing what they know and seeing how they act. There is much that new hires typically learn from observing more seasoned workers who are right across the hall or sitting next to them in a meeting. That includes things like how they hold meetings and how they conduct themselves in a general work environment. One of the challenges for those working remotely is the absence of those opportunities. As an employer, this means it is even more important for you to look for ways to support your younger employees through training and professional development.
Not only should you be encouraging your employees to engage in training, but you should specifically give them permission to set aside time in their workday to focus on professional development. Whether that looks like setting aside 30 minutes or an hour a week for professional development or clearing several days in a row for more intensive training, communicate the importance of training to your employees by giving them clear permission to do so.
New virtual opportunities for professional development
While opportunities to learn from each other in an office environment may be limited for some companies, there are still many opportunities available, some of which are more accessible now because of the limits on in-person gatherings. Many professional conferences have switched to a virtual format as a way to continue connecting people without the risk of a large group gathering. With the shift to virtual, the price of many of the conferences dropped dramatically. This opens the possibility of sending more employees or perhaps your entire company to industry conferences. Virtual courses and self-study opportunities existed pre-COVID too, but even more are being offered now. Sign your employees up for these courses, and grant them the time in their workday to focus on learning.
Engaging your team in professional development
Look for other ways to foster teaching and mentoring among workers as well, whether formal or informal. This could take many forms and utilize the tools you are already using. Create opportunities for your workers to share their knowledge and experience with others, and foster conversation around that. For example, challenge one team member to come to a Zoom call with an interesting and relevant article. Share with the team and discuss what’s been learned. These types of calls sharpen the thinking and skills of your entire staff and your help staff continue to engage and connect with one another even while working remotely.
Now is a great time to invest in your employees’ training and professional development. While being out of our normal routines may have disrupted some professional development plans, it has also created opportunities and access to resources virtually, some of which may have been cost-prohibitive in the past. By giving your employees permission to engage in these opportunities, they and your business will benefit from the continued support and education.
If you need help structuring a training calendar for your team, reach out to WhyHR to discuss how we can help.